Should I Watch..? 'Bloodshot'
What's the big deal?
Bloodshot is a sci-fi action film released in 2020 and is based on the Valiant Comics character of the same name created by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin and Bob Layton. Directed by David S. F. Wilson in his directorial debut, the film depicts a US Marine brought back to life thanks to prototype nanotechnology who embarks on a quest for revenge against those who murdered him and his wife. The film stars Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan and Toby Kebbell. The film was intended to be the start of a series of films based on characters within the Valiant Comics mythos although it remains to be seen whether this will be the case. The film received a mixed reception from critics and it initially earned around $28.6 million before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of cinemas around the world just two weeks into its cinematic run. Distributors Sony then decided to release the film via digital on-demand services.
What's it about?
Successfully leading a team of US Marines to rescue hostages held in Mombasa in Kenya, Ray Garrison is looking forward to a much earned holiday on the Italian coast with his wife Gina. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much chance to relax after a gang of mercenaries kidnap the pair of them. Demanding to know the source of the Mombasa operation, the mercenaries - led by smooth-talking psychopath Martin Axe - soon learn that Ray wasn't privy to that information. As a result, they kill Gina in front of a desperate Ray before shooting him dead as well.
Shortly thereafter, Ray wakes up in a scientific lab run by Dr Emil Harting who is CEO of Rising Spirit Tech, a company specialising in nanotechnology. Harting tells Ray that he has been resurrected and infused with billions of nanobots that not only enhance his physical abilities to beyond normal human limitations but also heal any injury at an impossibly rapid rate. Introduced to RST's other projects including former US Navy diver KT, Ray finds himself devoid of any memories of his prior life as a result of the procedures he has undergone. But one night, he suffers a flashback to the night he died and sets off on a personal mission for vengeance...
Ray Garrison / Bloodshot
Dr Emil Harting
Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
David S. F. Wilson
Jeff Wadlow & Eric Heisserer*
Release Date (UK)
11th March, 2020
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
You certainly can't accuse Bloodshot of a lack of effort because the film is a surprisingly entertaining and well put-together picture. Granted, it doesn't feel especially original but the film sticks to its brief admirably. This is a quick and violent action film to satisfy genre fans and possibly fans of Diesel's more popular action film series, The Fast And The Furious. After all, we're no more than ten minutes in and not only has he successfully led a squad of US Marines into battle but also ends up in a white vest and sharing a bed with a mostly naked, beautiful woman. But before you go thinking that the next step is a V8 muscle car screeching its tyres in a cloud of smoke, the movie instead becomes something a little different. I can't compare Diesel's portrayal to that of the source material because, quite frankly, I had never heard of the character's comic origins before. But it's nice seeing Diesel still acquit himself well in varying action sequences that are allowed to be considerably over-the-top given that he's basically a video game character come to life.
There are other surprises in store as well. Pearce reminds us that he is a actor of real quality as the shady scientist not being entirely open with the truth but Gonzalez does her career a power of good as the equally enigmatic KT, a 21st century twist on the femme fatale role that is both bewitching and dangerous at the same time. The film also employs a fair amount of CG and it's the little touches that impress the most - take KT's mechanical throat vents or the ornate tattoos displayed on her skin. The CG is most obvious whenever Ray gets shot or blown up and the nanites do their thing but I can see the potential for the character here and I'd like to see what they do next, assuming another film is forthcoming.
- It's possibly no surprise that Ray Garrison feels like a video game character, given director Wilson's previous work. Before becoming a director, he was a visual effects supervisor at Blur Studios and worked on a number of video games like Halo Wars, Mass Effect 2, The Elder Scrolls Online and The Division. Coincidentally, The Division also featured Alex Hernandez in its cast.
- Bloodshot is one of the most popular characters in the Valiant Comics universe with almost seven million copies sold since his debut in 1992. Development of this film was originally started in 2012 with Jared Leto in talks to star instead of Diesel. Other directors who passed on the project include Chad Stahelski (John Wick) and David Leitch (Deadpool 2).
- There is a chase and shootout sequence set in London but is quite clearly not filmed there. Take the moment when Ray grabs the assault rifle from the police car - neither the vehicle or its colours are those used by the Metropolitan Police and neither is the assault rifle, which are actually kept in the boot of specialist Firearms vehicles and not laying around for anyone to pick up!
What's not to like?
I was anticipating disappointment from Diesel who is arguably one of the least expressive actors in Hollywood despite the enormous success he has enjoyed. I suspect that director Wilson also had fears about his leading man as Diesel feels little more than a skeleton to hang the film's effects on to. This works for a while but other than delivering during the action scenes, Diesel is his standard monotonous self and lacks the crucial charisma needed for us to get behind him in the way that his Fast & Furious co-star Jason Statham might. The film also feels hugely derivative and unoriginal as it combines elements of films like Nikita, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Source Code and countless other Marvel movies that detail a character's origin without giving us a proper story - say, Ant-Man. And sadly, it is mostly unable to match the standards of its multiple inspirations.
There are also some serious defects in terms of making the film itself. For example, there is a chase sequence set in London but it is so apparent that not a single shot of the scene was filmed there, I thought that the narrative had sneaked a change of location in without me noticing. It's also not great at disguising its plot twists and halfway through, the film introduces a character who is excessively English played by Lamorne Morris who is both apparently critical to the story and annoying in an insidious way, your irritation growing the more he's on screen. I would have liked less of him and much more of Gonzalez kicking all kinds of ass like a Latino Scarlett Johansson playing Black Widow. The film has some mighty aspirations of going toe-to-toe with Marvel but in every aspect, it is the inferior product.
Should I watch it?
Bloodshot has some interesting, if unoriginal, ideas and does a decent enough job of providing the requisite action and fisticuffs that genre fans might be craving in the absence of new releases. In some ways, the film might even have benefitted from the global lockdown resulting from COVID-19. But the film isn't much more than your standard sci-fi slugfest with a disappointing lead and a clearly inexperienced director. Gonzalez does her career a power of good though and I sincerely hope to see her in something a bit better in future.
Great For: an uncrowded action market (for once), Eiza Gonzalez, Valiant Comics' public profile
Not So Great For: jaded action fans, studio executives hoping to count box office receipts, hanging around in your memory
What else should I watch?
I got the feeling that the film wanted to be more adult-orientated until it was doubtless watered down by nervous studio execs. An edgier film might have been interesting, like a less comedic Deadpool which brought bloodier violence and an attitude previously unseen in the usually clean-cut, family friendly superhero films released in the wake of the huge success enjoyed by Iron Man. To this day, much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or its DC counterpart remains deliberately inoffensive in order to maximise box office potential but with so many films feeling similar to each other, it takes something a little different to stand apart from the crowd. Take the likes of Wonder Woman, Guardians Of The Galaxy or Black Panther, for example.
I may have been slightly disparaging about the talents of Mr Diesel but as I said, he has enjoyed staggering levels of success at the box office so I doubt he's that upset about this film's financial misfortune. When he isn't saving the world on four wheels in the increasingly silly Fast & Furious series, he's also saving the universe as the sci-fi anti-hero Riddick who first appeared in the low budget shocker Pitch Black, a fine example of a film defying its limitations. Ironically, Diesel's typically monotone delivery is perfect for his appearance as the sentient tree-creature Groot in the aforementioned Guardians as well as one of his earliest roles in The Iron Giant.
© 2020 Benjamin Cox